Learn About Installing-Pavers
Installing-Pavers is a project many homeowners could do themselves. That is if they are not adverse to some very hard work, have the time and access to some equipment. Below is a list of the common steps involved in installing a paver patio or walkway. These steps might vary depending on the condition and layout of the site, but these steps are standard for a level site without any complicating conditions.
When Installing-Pavers first, as with any project that requires any kind of digging or excavating, you must contact the local utilities to insure they mark all underground electrical, gas, water, sewer, telephone, cable, and other lines that you could possibly run into when digging. This is usually very simple. You just call one number and tell them where you are digging and they will send out a crew to mark all underground utilities. You can find that number in your local phone book with the important emergency numbers. Here in Minnesota it is called, Gopher One Call. It will take them a few days to mark everything, so make sure you make this call about a week before you want to start. You may want to layout and mark the area where you plan to make your installation prior to them getting there. That way they can make sure that they identify anything that will be in your way. Once they have marked all the stuff underground, you will know if there is anything in your way when you begin digging. If there is, you have to be very careful when you are digging where they marked. If there is a lot of lines, especially utility lines going through the area you may want to have some of them moved.
Next comes the fun part. You get to excavate the area. One of the reasons pavers are better than most other types of hard surfaces, is that they gain there stability from the base that is under them. Typically in our northern areas, paver patios and walkways have at least a 6” compacted base. However, you have to dig deeper than that. See the graphic above. The total depth you need to excavate is:
A. The thickness of the compacted base – 6 inches
B. The thickness of the sand leveling base – usually 1 inch
C. The thickness of the paver – that may vary with the product you use but it is typically around 2 3/8 to 3 inches
When Installing-Pavers you typically need to excavate between 9 ½ to 10 inches of dirt before you can begin to install the base. Just for reference, if you dig out a 10’ x 15’ patio base 10 inches deep that is over 6 and a half tons of dirt you need to move out and over 5 tons of fill material you need to hall back in. A contractor will typically do this type of work with a skid steer loader or excavator.
While you are excavating you also need to decide what to do with the dirt you dig out. You need either to haul it away or find a place for it on your lot.
Now that the hole has been neatly excavated to the correct depth, you must compact the top layer of soil to insure it is solid. Next, you begin to install paver base material. The base material is made of a compactable gravel material. It will be a class five or class two material. It is crushed stone with filler material that makes it compactable. The first layer needs to be installed (never more than 3 – 4 inches at one time) and compacted. A mechanical packer needs to be used. Two to three layers will need to be installed and compacted to give you a compacted base depth of 6 inches or more. This compacted base gives the pavers their stability. When the ground freezes and thaws, if you have installed the base correctly, the pavers will not be affected by minor movements in the virgin soil under the base. Installing the base is the most critical step in installing pavers. If the base is not done correctly, the paver surface may have problems.
The last step in installing paver base is to make sure that compacted base is graded correctly. Even though you want a flat surface for your patio or walkway, you really do not want it completely level. You need to build in some “grade” to make sure the water runs off the surface. As an example, you want the surface of a patio to “tilt” from side to side or front to back so that water runs off. How much “tilt” depends on the overall size of the surface.
The next layer of base is the leveling layer made up of sand. A one-inch layer of sand helps you make sure the surface is smooth and level. Typically, one-inch pipes are laid across the compacted base several feet apart. Sand is put over the base and the pipes. A straight edge is the used to screed the sand between the pipes forming a smooth and level surface on which the pavers will be laid. The sand surface is screeded in sections as the pavers are laid to insure a good flat surface.
You are now ready to start installing pavers. If everything was done right up to this point, as you lay the pavers the following things will be true:
A. The pavers will be at the correct height to the surrounding surfaces
B. The pavers will lay flat but have a grade that allows for drainage
Begin installing pavers. Where you start will depending on the pattern and the layout of the patio or walkway. If the pavers will adjoin an existing surface such as a set of steps, you will probably start there and work outward. Make sure you follow a pattern that you identified for your paver surface. Avoid long straight joints. Eventually you will get to an edge where you will stop. You may have installed paver edge restraint after installing the base to identify your edges or may wait until you lay the pavers to the approximate spot of the edge and then install the edge restraint against the last row of pavers. As you install the pavers, watch the pattern, install the pavers tightly against each other. You can use a heavy hammer and a piece of 2 x 4 or a dead blow hammer to adjust any pavers that do not lay perfectly flat. Continually check to make sure that pavers are flat and level in relationship to each other. If a paver sits low, remove it and add sand to raise the level. If it sits high, a little tap with the hammer may level it out.
Once the pavers are all laid, and the edge restraint is secured, you are ready to fill the joints and compact the pavers into the sand. Spread a thin layer of sand over the pavers and sweep it over the entire surface. The mechanical compactor is then used to go over the entire surface. The compactor will force the pavers down into the sand and at the same time force sand down into the joints from above. The result should be pavers that are solidly embedded in and locked in place by the sand. After compacting, continue to sweep the loose sand back and forth in several directions to insure all joints are completely filled. Sweep off any excess sand and admire your work. Check the entire surface, is it flat? Remember if you see a low paver or a high paver, you can always add some sand under low spots or tap it down the high spots.
A. Mark for utilities
C. Fill and compact
F. Sweep and compact
G. Probably some final grading around the edges
This was a very short version of the instructions on how to install pavers. It was intended to give you a birds eye view and maybe help you decide if this is something you think you could do or at least help you understand what a contractor will be doing if you hire someone to do some or all of the work for you.
If you do decide to install pavers yourself, I highly recommend you visit the web site of one of the paver manufacturers or go to your local paver supplier and get a complete detailed set of instructions to follow.
Permagreen would be happy to work with you to install your pavers or at least install the base for you so you know the most difficult and critical steps are done correctly. Contact Permagreen to see what we can do to help you be successful.
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